Author: Christopher Buehlman
Publication Date: May 25, 2021
Print Length: 416 pages
Read Date(s): July 14, 2021 – July 18, 2021
Kinch Na Shannack owes the Takers Guild a small fortune for his education as a thief, which includes (but is not limited to) lock-picking, knife-fighting, wall-scaling, fall-breaking, lie-weaving, trap-making, plus a few small magics. His debt has driven him to lie in wait by the old forest road, planning to rob the next traveler that crosses his path.
But today, Kinch Na Shannack has picked the wrong mark.
Galva is a knight, a survivor of the brutal goblin wars, and handmaiden of the goddess of death. She is searching for her queen, missing since a distant northern city fell to giants.
Unsuccessful in his robbery and lucky to escape with his life, Kinch now finds his fate entangled with Galva’s. Common enemies and uncommon dangers force thief and knight on an epic journey where goblins hunger for human flesh, krakens hunt in dark waters, and honor is a luxury few can afford.
I had such high expectations for this book because I’ve seen so many glowing reviews. Unfortunately, it did not live up to those expectations. For most of the first half of the book, I really wanted to DNF it, which I almost never do. Instead I pushed through it, and I am glad I did, though, because the plot actually became much more interesting toward the end.
First, let’s go over what I loved most about the book. The world the author built was fascinating, complex, and kind of horrifying. The bits of history built into the narrative and the intricate relationship of the guild to politics made the world seem realistic and gritty. The impact of the goblin wars on the different societies was harrowing to read about and acted as a great metaphor for the potential horrors of war in our own world. In general, the author did a fantastic job of creating and describing interesting societies and gruesome creatures, including goblins, giants, krakens, and giant murder birds, among others. The descriptions of the creatures and their deeds, especially, often left me in awe of how horrifying they truly were. The magic system was also entertaining, but it came across as somewhat underdeveloped. I’d love to learn more about how it works because it seemed like it did whatever the story needed it to do at the time without much explanation. Although, it seemed some of the explanation could be coming in future books.
I did not enjoy the pacing or writing style of this book at all. Almost immediately from starting it, I wanted to DNF it because the writing was choppy and didn’t flow well. Much of it was filled with random forays into seemingly pointless exposition, which bogged down the story even if the information it gave was interesting. It felt like it took forever for the story to actually get started, and the first half of the book seemed like a successive string of stops only taken to collect all the random side characters. The overall plot was intriguing, but I didn’t realize it until the book was almost over. The author was too busy adding characters just for them to die and sending these poor people on ridiculous side quest after ridiculous side quest. It got to the point where all the side quests took over the narrative and not in a fun or good way. There were so many side stories that it all felt a bit disconnected and added to the choppy feeling I already got from the writing, which overpowered what was actually an interesting main plot.
Whether you like the book will probably hinge on whether you like the characters, especially the main character, Kinch. The book is told from his perspective as if he is narrating the story from some point in the distant future. He has a very crass sense of humor and is often profane. Despite enjoying a lot of the humor, I found him to be quite annoying (especially all the random singing) and the least interesting of all the main characters. He was constantly going off on tangents, which was to blame for most of the previously mentioned exposition, and just wasn’t that engaging to me. The other main characters, Galva and Norrigal, were much more interesting and had intriguing backstories. Unfortunately, they were relegated mostly to the sidelines, but they did have some moments to shine. I think I would have enjoyed the book more if it had multiple POV from some of the characters other than Kinch.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the cat. He was the BEST part of this book! I won’t say any more to avoid spoilers, but I enjoyed the role he played in the story and found myself more worried about the cat than any of the other characters in the book.
Overall, this book is a pretty good quest story set within an absolutely fantastic world. The writing was not really to my taste, but I’m sure many people will love it. The book was somewhat chaotic and lacked depth from all the characters bouncing around from one disaster to the next at breakneck speed. Even with its flaws, the book sets up an interesting story, and I will probably give the next book a chance to see where it might go next. Therefore, I rate it 3 out of 5 stars.